Working on Game of Thrones is a bit like being in Fight Club: the first rule of Westeros is you don’t talk about Westeros. Which is why there were tons of awkward, long silences when Billboard caught up with GoT composer Ramin Djawadi recently to talk about Sunday night’s (July 16) season 7 premiere of HBO’s acclaimed swords-and-snow drama.
“I really can’t say a lot,” Djawadi said by way of introduction when asked to describe his work on season 7’s opening episode and the upcoming penultimate season of the acclaimed series. “Most of the time I didn’t even start until they’ve finished shooting and I’d come in at the end of post-production. But in season 6 and [upcoming] season 7 I was able to go to set and see the actors and meet with them and the directors and see [showrunners] David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] and get a sneak peek. Being on set is such an inspiration to see what’s going on and talk about what’s coming up.”
Djawadi could not, of course, say anything about what he saw, but he did reveal that he got plenty of fresh musical ideas by laying eyes on the new sets and wardrobes. “As the plot develops and they push forward with everything it was really inspirational,” he said. “I got a sneak peek of the new scenes and it helped me develop the existing themes and also add some new ones.”
In keeping with the code of silence placed over everything GoT-related, Djawadi wasn’t able to play any of his new music cues on Wednesday night (July 12) at the Hollywood red carpet premiere of the first season 7 episode. Instead, he took the stage with a huge symphony and, with footage of GoT highlights playing on a screen behind him, played such classics as “Light of the Seven” from the season 6 finale and the show’s signature theme song at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
“It was so great being at Disney hall with the amazing sound there,” he said of the surprise performance. “It was my first time performing there and it’s such a spectacular place and it sounds so amazing. I’ve been waiting for season 7 for so long, so the audience was pumped. The idea was to lead into season 7 by performing the main title and two pieces from the last episode of season 6. It was like a preview and nice summary of how we left off.”
Djawadi has spent years creating themes that match the various houses such as Stark and Lannister, as well as giving breakout characters Jon Snow and Arya Stark their own musical cues last season. Which is why he was so pumped to get a Twitter shout out last year from Arya herself, actress Maisie Williams, who said she loved the work he did for her character.
Thank you. Loved developing your theme this season. You were amazing!!
— Ramin Djawadi (@Djawadi_Ramin) June 27, 2016
Tip-toeing around some big season 7 plot lines, Djawadi was able to talk about one thing he’s very excited about this year. “The dragons are the size of 747s now,” he said of Daenerys Targaryen’s all grown up monsters. “That’s epic in its own right, so the music has to rise with that as well,” he said. “There’s some really beautiful, emotional scenes in this season and really amazing actions scenes. They’ve [the dragons] grown so much that musically I was able to push in both directions — emotional and action-packed. A lot of times it’s very dialogue-heavy and the music stays in the background so I use solo instruments like cello and violin. But now as we’re coming to the end with big scenes I can use bigger string sections and brass and choirs and get much bigger orchestra sounds.”
Past seasons have featured sly cameos from musicians include Snow Patrol singer Gary Lightbody, Coldplay‘s Will Champion and Sigur Ros. But Djawadi said Sunday’s season premiere had one of the biggest chart-topping names to date: Maisie Williams favorite Ed Sheeran.
“It’s pretty cool. He sings a piece that I wrote with lyrics that came from the book,” Djawadi said. “It was kind of like [season 3’s ‘The Bear And The] Maiden Fair,’ where I went in and wrote melodies for lyrics from the book. Ed sings those lyrics and he’s great.”